Harry Christophers

Conductor

Harry Christophers

Harry Christophers is known internationally as founder and conductor of The Sixteen as well as a regular guest conductor for many of the major symphony orchestras and opera companies worldwide. He has directed The Sixteen and its orchestra, The Symphony of Harmony and Invention, throughout Europe, America and the Far East. He has performed at some of the world's most prestigious festivals including Salzburg, Mostly Mozart in New York, the BBC Promenade Concerts, the Prague Spring Festival and in Vienna's Musikverein, Sydney Opera House and Tokyo Opera City, gaining a distinguished reputation for his work in Renaissance, Baroque and 20th century music.

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Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 83 & Violin Concerto in C major

Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 83 & Violin Concerto in C major


Haydn:

Symphony No. 7 in C major 'Le Midi'

Symphony No. 83 in G minor 'The Hen'

Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob.VIIa:1

Aisslinn Nosky (violin)


In a programme packed full of great drama and theatricality, Harry Christophers and the Handel and Haydn Society present a new live recording devoted to the master of the symphony. This disc showcases Haydn’s Symphony No. 7 Le midi which is amongst the most striking of his early symphonies and one of the very first the composer wrote as Kapellmeister to Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. It is set alongside the much later Paris Symphony No. 83 La poule, named as such because of its famous clucking dotted note motif. Completing the programme is the Violin Concerto in C major performed by H+H’s fiery and expressive Concertmaster, Aisslinn Nosky.

“This series, recorded live, is showing us that Haydn’s early symphonies are as daring and fresh in their own way as the latest. No 7 (1761) is a fine instance, with concertante roles for three string soloists. It and the pleasing C major violin concerto highlight Nosky’s elegant playing. Haydn’s art had evolved much by the time of ”La Poule” (No 83), deftly dashing in this reading.” Sunday Times, 24/01/2016

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Poetry in Music

Poetry in Music


Britten:

Hymn to St Cecilia, Op. 27

East, M:

When David Heard that Absalom was Slain

Gurney:

Since I believe in God the Father

Harris, W:

Faire is the Heaven

Bring us, O Lord God

Howells:

Take him, earth, for cherishing

MacMillan:

The Gallant Weaver

Pearsall:

Lay a garland

Ramsey, R:

When David heard

Rubbra:

Eternitie

Rubinstein, B:

There is a spirit

Tippett:

Dance, Clarion Air

Tomkins:

When David Heard

Weelkes:

When David Heard


Ruth Provost, Kirsty Hopkins, David Clegg, Jeremy Budd, Ben Davies, Julie Cooper, Edward McMullan, Mark Dobell

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Does music add substance to words or is music inspired by them? Songs of departure and farewell are deeply rooted in the great tradition of British choral music, nourished by ancient myths of testing journeys, wayside transformations and homecomings. The transcendent nature of music and the power of poetry to challenge and alter perceptions of reality – harnessed by English composers over many centuries – flow through a programme that invites contemplation of life and death, of love and loss, creation and eternity. In a journey covering six centuries of musical history, The Sixteen performs a cappella anthems with powerful texts by writers as varied as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Fry and W.H. Auden.

“It is clear that this is something really special. That specialness comes not just from the fact that The Sixteen elevate everything they perform through their opulent musicality and supreme clarity of tone, but from Harry Christophers’s intuitive grasp of the marriage of music and words.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2015

“the British composers represented here, covering five centuries, all chose distinguished texts and responded with extraordinary music...The performances are beautiful and brilliant.” New York Times, 25th November 2015

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - November 2015

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Haydn: The Creation

Haydn: The Creation


Inspired by Haydn’s trips to England, where he first heard Handel’s oratorios, The Creation is widely considered Haydn’s crowning masterpiece. Set for three vocal soloists, four-part chorus, and a large Classical orchestra, there seems little doubt that Haydn wanted a big sound (by the standard of his day) for this work. Based on both the biblical Book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost, the oratorio was premiered in the US by the Handel and Haydn Society in 1819. Harry Christophers says: “Haydn’s music is always a joy to perform but with The Creation he excels himself allowing soloists, chorus and period orchestra to revel in vivid word painting, both vocal and instrumental. Can there be a more consistently happy work than The Creation? Feel free to smile at his genius.”

Handel and Haydn Society is America's oldest continuously operating arts organisation. Its Bicentennial celebration began with the 2014-2015 Season and continues into the 2015-2016 Season. Harry Christophers has been Artistic Director since 2008.

“both steeped in tradition and aware of period manners. The choral and orchestral forces are optimum for a piece from the late 18th century, and three stylish British soloists (Sarah Tynan, Jeremy Ovenden, Matthew Brook) make a strong case for a performance sung in English.” Sunday Times, 27th September 2015

“an exceptional account of the oratorio from all points of view…but what is wholly exceptional is the diction of both soloists and choir; you can hear every word without referring to the text printed in the booklet…the choir also impresses with its bright, fresh tone, while the orchestra supplies distinctive colour and vibrancy; their playing is consistently alert” BBC Music Magazine, February 2016 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice

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The Complete Traditional Christmas Carols Collection

The Complete Traditional Christmas Carols Collection

Volumes 1 & 2


Darke:

In the Bleak Midwinter

Gauntlett:

Once in Royal David's city

Goss, J:

See amid the winter's snow

Gruber, F:

Silent Night

Holst:

In the Bleak Mid-winter (Cranham)

Kirkpatrick:

Away in a Manger

Kocher:

As with gladness men of old

Mendelssohn:

Hark! the herald angels sing

Ord:

Adam lay ybounden

Poston:

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

trad.:

The First Nowell

Sussex Carol

While Shepherds Watched

I saw three ships

Angels from the Realms Of Glory

O little town of Bethlehem

Rocking

In Dulci Jubilo

Ding dong! merrily on high

Good King Wenceslas

Deck the Hall

The Holly and the Ivy

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Coventry Carol

Of the Father's heart begotten

This is the truth sent from above

Gabriel’s Message

Masters in this Hall

Past Three a Clock

Gloucester Wassail (Wassail, wassail all over the town)

In Dulci Jubilo

O come, o come, Emmanuel

Cherry Tree Carol

It came upon the midnight clear

Personent hodie

Down in yon Forest

Wexford Carol

Joys seven

Unto Us a Boy is Born!

Vaughan Williams:

Wither's rocking hymn

Wade, J F:

O come, all ye faithful


Due to popular demand, CORO has packaged The Sixteen’s two most popular Christmas titles into one double CD set. The ensemble’s Traditional Christmas Carol Collections Volumes I and II feature some of our best-known and best-loved Christmas carols in arrangements with traditional harmonies and original words. Favourites include In the bleak midwinter, Silent night and See amid the winter’s snow. There is also an abundance of festive music that deserves to be better known and The Sixteen includes some rediscovered treasures in this collection such as Masters in this Hall, Past three a clock and Gloucestershire Wassail.

“Simple, sincere and thoroughly engaging.” American Record Guide

“The Sixteen sounds as crisp and refreshing as a frosty morning...A wide and interesting choice of festive favourites, performed with precise, unsentimental warmth and a sense of occasion.” Classic FM Magazine, January 2011 ****

“If you really want to listen to carols at home or in the gym, you won’t go wrong with these pristine performances.” Financial Times, 4th December 2010 ***

“beautiful with a capital B.” The Times, 17th December 2010

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Monteverdi in Mantua

Monteverdi in Mantua

the Genius of the Vespers


Monteverdi:

Vespro della beata Vergine (1610)


presented by Simon Russell Beale

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

The BBC’s celebrated Sacred Music journey continues with Monteverdi in Mantua - the story of a Renaissance duke and the composer who worked for him and how their volatile relationship would create one of the most revolutionary and beautiful collections of music ever published: The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. The programme is presented by Shakespearean actor and former St Paul’s Cathedral chorister, Simon Russell Beale, whose enthusiasm for choral music is matched by his gift for storytelling. Together with conductor Harry Christophers and his virtuoso choir The Sixteen, Simon explores Monteverdi’s early career in Mantua, where he wrote the Vespers under the slave-like regime of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga, a man addicted to sex, luxury and art. Using the remarkable legacy of 127 surviving letters, Monteverdi is revealed as the first of a new breed of dramatic composer, straddling the worlds of the secular and sacred, whose bold experiments would change the way music sounds forever.

A Special Edition version (COR16137) is also available which includes The Sixteen’s audio recording of the Vespers of 1610.

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Coro BBC Sacred Music - COR16131

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Palestrina Volume 6

Palestrina Volume 6


Palestrina:

Missa L'Homme Armé 5vv

Surge amica mea, speciosa mea (from Canticum canticorum)

Dilectus meus mihi

Peccantem me quotidie

Surgam et circuibo civitatem

Parce mihi, Domine

Si ambulavero in medio tribulationis

Tribulationes civitatum

Super flumina Babylonis

Tribularer si nescirem

plus:

SONG OF SONGS: nos. 16, 17 & 18


The Sixteen continues its acclaimed series of discs exploring the work of Italian Renaissance master, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. An enormous body of sacred works, including over 100 Masses, rightly earned Palestrina the title of ‘the prince and father of music’ and ‘the saviour of church music’. His legacy has impacted sacred music worldwide for over 400 years and composers throughout the centuries have studied and learned from his gift of writing exquisite polyphony.

Central to this sixth disc is Palestrina’s unjustly neglected 5-voice L’Homme armé Mass. Written before 1570, it is no mere technical showpiece, but contains music of the highest quality. It is accompanied on this disc by a group of penitential and devotional motets and Offertories on well known texts such as Parce mihi Domine, Si ambulavero in medio tribulationis, Tribulationes civitatem, De profundis, and Super flumina Babylonis, eliciting from Palestrina his best and most moving music. Three further Song of Songs motets in the Sixteen’s ongoing complete survey complete the CD.

“This sort of mood suits The Sixteen's brightly focused choral sound, and Harry Christophers's direction is unobtrusive but telling: the terraced approach to the final 'Kyrie' is a case in point, and the flowering into six voices in the concluding 'Agnus Dei' is particularly lovely.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2015

“Christophers artfully moulds and heightens the contours of the polyphonic lines, which ebb and flow in a liquid tapesty of sound...The Sixteen's rich, buttery sound is particularly effective for the sensual Song of Songs settings, which brim with Counter-Reformation fervour.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 *****

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Purcell: The Indian Queen

Purcell: The Indian Queen


Purcell:

The Indian Queen, Z630

Purcell, D:

The Masque of Hymen


Julie Cooper, Kirsty Hopkins, Jeremy Budd, Mark Dobell, Matthew Long, Ben Davies, Eamonn Dougan & Stuart Young

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Henry Purcell was a brilliant music dramatist and in The Indian Queen there is a plethora of detail, colour and characterisation to be explored in every symphony, air and dance. Purcell's instrumental writing leaps off the page with string writing that is second to none and a wealth of variety capped by exquisite writing for trumpet, oboes and recorders.

Based on Dryden’s play, Henry Purcell’s music from The Indian Queen deals with the conflict between the Mexican and Peruvians and principally with Queen Zempoalla. The Indian Queen is a classic story of love and war and, as with all good stories, things don’t go quite as planned for the eponymous Queen…

There is so much exceptional vocal music to revel in but none better than the extraordinary recitative You twice ten hundred deities for the magician Ismeron which opens Act III, and was described by the historian Charles Burney as “the best piece of recitative in our language”.

Like Mozart and Schubert, Henry Purcell lived all too short a life – he lived just over 30 years – and for that reason it was left to his brother Daniel to complete The Indian Queen. Daniel was no Henry but his final Hymeneal masque allows a little light relief. Act V, which was the last music that Henry wrote, is a perfect Didoesque ending to The Indian Queen proper and just proves how we as music lovers suffer when these geniuses die young.

“Christophers leads a trim, affectionate performance of Purcell’s last (unfinished) semi-opera. The musical forces are small and flexible, and though some previous recordings bring more star power to bear among the soloists, Purcell’s bountiful score is never short-changed.” Financial Times, 28th February 2015 ****

“It’s a delicious 72 minutes of Restoration wit and lyrical charm, performed gracefully by Harry Christophers’ the Sixteen. There are stirring trumpet tunes, one magnificent bass scene (sonorously delivered by Eamonn Dougan), and fine solos from rising young singers such as Kirsty Hopkins and Matthew Long.” The Times, 28th February 2015 ****

“Henry’s music has dwindled to one song, but his contributions are of consistently finer quality...than his relative’s. Christophers has less famous names than Hogwood did (Kirkby, Ainsley, Finley), but Matthew Long, Eamonn Dougan and Julie Cooper’s solos are all outstanding, and their voices blend superbly in the choruses.” Sunday Times, 29th March 2015

“A fine scene for the magician Ismeron...is suavely done by Eamonn Dougan. The band play adroitly in a few curtain tunes and the Overture...High tenor Matthew Long dispatches Fame's 'Begone, curst fiends of Hell' impressively...this is an engaging advocacy of Purcell's final and seemingly incomplete opera.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2015

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Flight of Angels

Flight of Angels


Guerrero, Francisco:

Duo Seraphim

Missa Surge propera: Gloria

Laudate Dominum

Maria Magdalene

Missa de la batalla escoutez: Credo

Vexilla Regis

Missa Congratulamini mihi: Agnus Dei I

Missa Congratulamini mihi: Agnus Dei II

Lobo, A:

Missa Maria Magdalene: Kyrie

Libera me

Ave Regina caelorum

Ave Maria

Versa est in luctum


Harry Christophers talks to Presto's David Smith about Flight of Angels here.

The Sixteen takes a trip back to 16th-century Spain and more specifically to one of the biggest, richest and most cosmopolitan cities on earth - Seville. It was during this 'golden age', when arts and culture flourished, that Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo made their mark. Between them these two composers captured an astonishing variety of moods within their music, from ecstasy and joy to despair, longing and devotional stillness.

“Christophers has devised a sequence that weaves together strikingly beautiful liturgical settings by both composers...The Sixteen performances may be a little detached and disembodied at times, but the poised beauty of their singing never fails.” The Guardian, 27th March 2015 ****

“Most of the music is written for at least six voices (usually more), a richness of texture to which The Sixteen respond admirably: the textures remain lucid and legible throughout.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2015

“As so often Christophers and the Sixteen prove to be the most persuasive advocates imaginable…[and]a commendably helpful essay by Martyn Imrie sets the seal on an outstanding release, beautifully recorded and scintillatingly sung. Vivant Sedecim!” Early Music Today, May 2015

“this programme…offers much warmth and richness of recorded sound” Choir & Organ, May 2015

Presto Discs of 2015

Finalist

Coro - COR16128

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Spirit, Strength & Sorrow

Spirit, Strength & Sorrow

Five settings of the Stabat Mater


Casciolini:

Stabat Mater

Firsova, E:

Stabat Mater

Kõrvits:

Stabat Mater

Martin, M:

Stabat Mater

Scarlatti, D:

Stabat Mater a 10 voci


Spirit, Strength & Sorrow is the staggering result of The Sixteen’s third collaboration with the Genesis Foundation and demonstrates, once again, their joint commitment to nurturing new artistic talent. This CD features three brand new settings of the Stabat Mater from emerging composers, Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin alongside those by Claudio Casciolini and Domenico Scarlatti.

Harry Christophers writes: ‘I find it staggering to think that it was only eight years ago when I first met John Studzinsiki. We had been invited to perform a very special work by Will Todd, aptly written for sixteen solo voices, which John had commissioned for his birthday. From this moment began a fruitful, meaningful and, above all, inspirational collaboration with John and the Genesis Foundation. Every project since has emanated from John’s devotion to the Catholic faith and his love of the wonderful poetry which encapsulates Christianity as well as his laudable mission to promote and nurture young talent.’

“Three new responses to the text, commissioned by John Studzinski’s Genesis Foundation, are sung here with faultless clarity by the Sixteen...Each is a significant contribution to the repertoire, sitting proudly alongside more familiar settings from Scarlatti and Casciolini, and all meticulously directed by Harry Christophers.” The Observer, 16th November 2014 ****

“All three [new works] are worth hearing and Domenico Scarlatti’s “Stabat Mater” makes a highly enjoyable Baroque companion for them.” Financial Times, 29th November 2014 ****

“All three [new settings] are touching and effective: imaginative in their choral sonorities and colouring of the text, skilfully balancing a strong feeling for tradition with a distinctive individual voice...At moments in their intimate and elegiac performance of the Scarlatti I wanted a dose of Latin theatricality. But in the new works their singing, technically and expressively, is beyond criticism.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2015

“Of the three contemporary works featured, Matthew Martin's is technically the most ambitious...It's an absorbing, highly accomplished piece of vocal writing, tailor-made to stretch a choir of The Sixteen's ability...For sinuous beauty, though, Domenico Scarlatti's gorgeous ten-part setting takes some beating, deliciously accompanied here by theorbo, harp and organ.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2015 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2015

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Monteverdi: Vespro della beata Vergine (1610)

Monteverdi: Vespro della beata Vergine (1610)


Grace Davidson, Charlotte Mobbs (sopranos), Simon Berridge, Jeremy Budd, Mark Dobell (tenor) & Ben Davies, Eamonn Dougan (bass)

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Harry Christophers writes: ‘Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 is quite simply one of the greatest works of sacred music ever written and without doubt the most varied and inspired before Handel and Bach began composing their oratorios and passions. Where it was written, why it was written and who it was written for are actually immaterial – suffice it to say it was quite simply his calling card for the big job, Choirmaster at the resplendent Basilica of St Mark in Venice. Its variety alone makes it unique – thrilling psalm settings with virtuosic writing for both multi-part choir and instrumentalists to exotic and sensual settings of texts from the Song of Songs for solo voices. Every movement is full of luscious harmonies, drama and an evocative musical language which is so beautifully constructed for all concerned.’

“Exemplary all-round standards are the draw here, whether solo voices, choir or instruments.” Financial Times, 15th November 2014 ****

“Christophers sees Monteverdi attempting here to 'speak through singing'...and this, he tells us, allows the conductor 'the most amazing licence' - of accentuation, speed and declamation. Hence the character accounts of Laudate pueri and Dixit Dominus, where pauses are ignored or inserted and the relative speeds between their duple and triple sections are rarely the same.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2015 ****

“The Sixteen has a directness and, certainly in this recording, a muscularity in approach that are very appealing…Christophers shapes every phrase beautifully and is always alive to Monteverdi's rhetoric…[this performance] gives a sense of how shockingly modern Monteverdi's Vespers must have seemed to those used to Palestrina and the like. For a work with which we are now so familiar, that is no small achievement.” International Record Review, May 2015

“This is surely one of the most refined versions of the Vespers currently available...not a note is out of place” Early Music Today, May 2015 *****

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